Idaho

A Hemp Company Sues After Police Mistake Their Product for Weed

Idaho police seized the product and charged the driver with a felony.

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|||Olegmalyshev/Dreamstime.com
Olegmalyshev/Dreamstime.com

Misinformation about hemp is a costly mistake, as one hemp company unfortunately discovered.

As of last week, Big Sky Scientific LLC, a hemp company based in Aurora, Colorado, is suing Idaho State Police (ISP) and Ada County after the two were at odds over whether or not the product they were transporting through Idaho was pot. Days prior, truck driver Denis V. Palamarchuk, 36, was apprehended while transporting 6,701 pounds of industrial hemp. During the arrest and seizure of the product, which occurred after Palamarchuk stopped at the East Boise Port of Entry, the driver attempted to explain to doubting ISP officers that the substance he carried was not pot, but rather hemp. In fact, a spokesperson told the Idaho Statesman that the officer on the scene "knows what marijuana smells like" and that "the odor was very easily detectable by him, even with the trailer's doors closed."

The officer's nasal investigation, a field drug test that showed a "presumptive positive for THC," and a positive identification from a drug-sniffing dog all overpowered Palamarchuk's insistence. The shipment was then taken for more definitive testing, but not after Palamarchuk was arrested, charged with a felony, and released on a $100,000 bond.

Palamarchuk and Big Sky Scientific LLC were correct; their product was perfectly legal. In fact, hemp was legalized nationwide following the passage of the most recent U.S. farm bill in December. But ISP officers made a common mistake and failed to properly distinguish two similar yet different products. In fact, it's misinformation like this and hemp's proximity to pot that led to national confusion over hemp for so long. As previously explained, hemp is pot's nonintoxicating cousin. Its components have many functions––they can be used as fibers for clothing and rope, seeds for edible products, and a naturally occuring cannabidiol (CBD), which is credited with reducing chronic pain and intense childhood epilepsy syndromes. Hemp is so ingrained in American history that George Washington, Founding Father and first president, grew the crop on his land.

Activists like Jason Amatucci of the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition had hoped that the farm bill would help to minimize confusion during run-ins with law enforcement. Amatucci previously told Reason, "What the 2018 farm bill will do is legitimize the industry to states, banks, insurance companies, Wall Street, and investors. It will help to clarify any legal gray areas that federal and state agencies have towards hemp and their end consumer products."

So while the ISP officer on the scene may have relied on their nose to make an arrest, the differences between hemp and pot are significant enough that they should have done more to confirm the legitimacy of their charge.

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  1. truck driver Denis V. Palamarchuk, 36, was apprehended while transporting 6,701 pounds of industrial hemp.

    Who does this mug think he is – Nate Newton?

  2. The officer’s nasal investigation, a field drug test that showed a “presumptive positive for THC,” and a positive identification from a drug-sniffing dog all overpowered Palamarchuk’s insistence.

    And so the officer, the drug tester, and the dog were all fired, right? RIGHT?!

    1. Fired, promoted, what’s the difference?

      1. 6700 lb. pot arrest now that would make news, might also actually make the minimum lethal dosage for overdose.

        1. ahh, ya’d fall asleep giggling long before you’d burned up the first pound in your hookah.

    2. Actually, what this should really mean is that dog alerts, field tests and odor no longer count as reason to suspect the presence of marijuana. The only real way to distinguish now-legal hemp and hemp products (including flowers and extracts) from illicit marijuana is with a proper lab test for THC.

    3. Fired? How about 15 years, no parole?

    4. Fired? How about 15 years, no parole?

  3. ISP.

    Perfessionulz.

    1. Never read the Statesman. It’ll rot your brain.

    2. ISP will sit at the WA border watching for people they suspect are purchasing weed and detain them once they cross the state line. I assume they do this along the Oregon border as well.

      You’d think they have better shit to do.

      1. “I smell weed!”

        They say that almost before your window is down. They have Sooper Sensitive smellers.

  4. They did a great job. That’s several thousand feet of rope that will never get out on the streets!

  5. Are we even sure the police “failed” to differentiate? Because it’s pretty common for cops to lie about smelling weed to serve as probable cause for illegal searches.

    1. Exactly. I have to think police nationwide are sad to see the country moving toward legalization. The old “I smelled weed” pretty much gave them carte blanche to search anyone’s vehicle. Lots of them will be sad to see this free pass on fishing expeditions go by the way side. I wonder what their new go to will be. There’s no way they let the Constitution stand in their way for long…

      1. Now when they say they smelled weed, you can just tell them that it’s hemp.

      2. Not that LivePD is indicative of nationwide policing trends, but I still see the “being nervous while talking to a police officer is suspicious, so I’m searching your vehicle” routine.

        Even without an excuse, police will simply do what they want because they know how difficult it is for you to contest a wrongful arrest. Despite our rights, we have no real recourse because police have a monopoly on force and they can murder you for resisting their illegal activity. It’s also extremely costly to contest police and you still have to endure at least several hours of illegal detainment/arrest to actually do anything.

        Every profession is imperfect and people will make mistakes, but there should be stricter penalties for officers who use aggressive tactics to entrap people.

    2. No one can ever be sure of anything, but I wouldn’t really doubt it too strongly. This was probably hemp with lots of flowers destined for CBD production. Which is the same thing as marijuana, but with less THC. And since it’s perfectly legal, they wouldn’t have tried to hide the odor too much.

    3. I live in an area where there are a lot of pot grows and certain times of the year the smell gets everywhere including my truck. I actually worry that someday I will be pulled over and they will smell it and check everything. I have nothing in my truck but they may consider some of my work tools weapons if they are in a pissy mood.

      1. They’ll charge you with obstruction of justice for failing to report a pot grow.

  6. hemp was legalized nationwide following the passage of the most recent U.S. farm bill in December

    Give them a break. You can’t expect word to get all the way out to Idaho in less than two months.

    1. Qualified Immunity fer shure.

    2. Yes, we can. These scum belong in jail.

  7. The driver should have know not to go through Idaho until at least ten years after the law was passed, to allow time for “the word” to filter down to a new generation of cops.
    Ignorance of the law is no excuse, unless it is.

  8. There have been several cases where the government went after people they thought were growing pot but it was tomatoes but even when presented evidence the government still tried to prosecute since it was determined to be pot through thermal imaging from a helicopter they never physically visited the site. Even my friend who was growing tomatoes in his front yard the cops stopped in on him. If your job is to know what pot is you should know what you are looking for

    1. And now, as stories like this demonstrate, it’s impossible to know what’s pot and what’s legal hemp without a lab test. So they need to stop pretending that they can tell with their noses, or dogs, or the shitty field tests that produce lots of false positives.

    2. Years ago I rented a backyard upstairs apartment from a very sweet 80 some year old widow who lived in the nicer house out front in the old downtown section of La Jolla. We were two blocks off the old 101 on the south side of town. One afternoon I was back home working, and saw her in the backyard. We’d always stop to chat. This afternoon she was in quite a huff. I should mention here that she LOVED to grow flowers, all kinds of gorgeous and fun flowers. Some smelled good, some looked pretty, and some did both. Why was she chuffed? She explained that the poilce had stopped by earler that morning and went round to the south side of the house and dug up all her big red poppies, they stood above two feet tall, with huge bowls of the deep red petals. As she harangued them for destroying her flower garden they claimed they thought they were opium poppies. NONSENSE she claimed. Those are just FLOWERS< can't you tell the difference? THey dug them all up and took them away. She never heard again, so figured she must have been right, they were NOT opium poppies else they'd have surely come back to take HER away too. "Silly cops!! WH do they think they are anyway!!!". That was fifty years ago, the war on drugs had already been well under way for some time. Glad for her sake she's gone now, she'd probably be too dumbfounded to function with today's nonsense. It is a mental disease, caught by government. Too bad its not always terminal.

  9. Well well well…. seems the Idaho SP and maybe some sheriffs will have to go and take some special training now to make certain. they don’t make this flub again. That will cost the state some considerable money.
    Or the legislature can simply legalise both cannabis products and have done with it all. Not likely, though, as weed is a great source of revenue and the faux enforcement of the stupid laws criminalising it “justifies” the existence of “swarms of officers” wreaking havoc on the rest of us.

    And false accusations, drop bags and guns, drug dog “hits” in response to subtle cues from their dirty handlers are all too deeply entrenched into Idaho;s government.

    Funy thing, hemp as the raw material for cordage, particularly for the marine trades, is the main reason cannabis was outlawed back in I think it was 1929. DuPont had just introduced nylonas a fibre for cordage, byt much of the industry were still settled on hemp, as it had been the standard for a long time. In order to preclude competition against nylon for cordage, duPont sought to criminalise ALL forms of cannabis nationwide. Dirty when a corporation can buy off government, hey? Not the first, NOR the last time, though.

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